Science, Religion and Magick

This was the title of a lecture given by Dr Rhobert Lewis, Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, at the Meeting House on Thursday.
The reason for the odd spelling of ‘Magick’, he said, is that he was thinking not in the modern sense of doing tricks for entertainment but in the old sense of ‘magick’ as one of the ways in which the world could be explained and influenced. In a world in which so many things are unpredictable and unexplained, human beings find three ways of trying to cope. They can work things out for themselves by observation and experiment (science), they can relate to a God or gods (religion), or they can try to understand and experiment with unexplained forces (‘magick’).
As science became more confident and religion more dogmatic and all-embracing, ‘magick’ tended to slip into the background and become labelled as ‘superstition’, and therefore false. Science and religion remained, but these were for a long time seen as the same thing. They were both about pursuing truth, finding out about God and how God created the world.
Dr Lewis traced the process by which an apparent conflict arose between science and religion. In modern times science has achieved spectacular success in changing the world we live in, while religion has often got stuck in unbending dogma. First Galileo and then Darwin were attacked by religious people because their theories were seen as inconsistent with what it was thought God had revealed in the Bible. Today there are religious people who preach ‘creationism’ and regard ‘intelligent design’ as a theory on a par with other scientific theories, and there are scientists who claim that science is the only explanation for everything and religion is irrational superstition.
These conflicts, Dr Lewis said, are between competing dogmas rather than between science and religion as such. Science, like religion, is universal but also incomplete. There are questions that science cannot answer, such as why the laws of nature are what they are, whether anything exists completely outside the world as we can know it (such as before the Big Bang, or for us after our own death), and the question of why anything exists at all. Religion that deals with question like this is as natural and necessary as it ever was, and need not be in opposition to science or in competition with it. Even ‘magic’ in the sense of wondering at the beauty and mystery of the world, still has its place. Science and religion can both evoke this sense of wonder that goes beyond any explanation.
The lecture touched on many questions, handling them in a plain, honest way that could be understood by lay people – in both senses, scientific and religious. It was a very informative and stimulating contribution to the Chaplaincy’s series of occasional lectures.
If you have any comments or would like to discuss these questions further, please feel free to contact a Chaplain or call in at the Meeting House any time. We would also be grateful for any suggestions you may have about other topics that could be the subject of a Chaplaincy lecture.

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Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January

Once again we will be observing this day at the Meeting House. The Forum will be open from 11 am to 3 pm with an opportunity to reflect quietly, look at some pictures, and light a candle.

Why are we doing that? How will our remembering help us? What will it achieve?

The day originated as a commemoration of the horrific systematic killing of six million Jews by the Nazi regime in Germany and neighbouring countries. But over the years it has broadened to include other shameful atrocities.  The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust calls upon people also to “remember the millions of people killed in … subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

We need to remember too that the Nazi Holocaust itself targeted other groups such as gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities, religious minorities such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others. We can also remember the many communities and individuals who have been sacrificed to the promotion of an ideology, the ambitions and insecurities of a tyrant, or the profits of a company.

Our reason for remembering is not so that we can pick out people to blame: to do this is to miss the whole point. In the words of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, this day is “a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented”.

So Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time not just to remember what certain people and regimes have done, but what the human nature we all share is capable of doing. To label people and regard them as inferior is the first step towards de-humanizing them, ceasing to care about them, treating them in ways we would not normally treat human beings, and eventually wanting to “exterminate” them.  Being honest about this is perhaps the first necessary step to preventing such things happening again.

But Holocaust Memorial Day can also be a time to think of the good that is in human nature and our ability to create a better world. Our different religions, and the values of many who do not have a religious faith, maintain that every human being, regardless of all the things that make us different from one another, is unique and sacred. Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves of this and commit ourselves to expressing it in our life today. If marking Holocaust Memorial Day takes any way towards this then we’re on our way to achieving its goal.

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Food bank reliance in the UK triples

A recent study by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty says that more than half a million UK people may rely on food banks, three times as many in 2012 as in the previous year.

It sites benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty. Oxfam said: “Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger.”

The report, which was backed by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest provider of food banks, calls the amount of food poverty in the UK, the seventh richest country in the world, a “national disgrace”.

The local Foodbank is a local response to this need. People can be referred to it by doctors, social workers etc. and receive an emergency package of three days’ food supply, together with advice and support to help them cope with their situation.

Chaplaincy at the Meeting House is a collection point for the Foodbank. Gifts of non-perishable food (rice, pasta, tea bags, sugar, dried or tinned food of various kinds) can be brought into the Meeting House at any time.

The need is all the year round, but this week we are making a special appeal culminating in  a short Harvest service on Friday, 18th October in the Meeting House from 12.15 to 12.45. You may bring your gifts to this service or come in with them at any other time.

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HCF Prayers October 2013

As you come to pray you may like to read Matthew 25:31-46. This is a difficult passage for many of us. For some it’s difficult because it talks about judgement, about separating the sheep from the goats, and we don’t like the idea of judgment. For others it’s difficult because what it seems to say is that our lives are judged by what we do, – and that seems to contradict the very heart of the gospel, that we are accepted in and through Christ.

Whatever we make of Jesus words here, the one thing they supremely do is underline how important to God it is that we don’t only talk about loving people, but actually do it. How we respond to the hungry, the foreigner, the sick and those who’ve made a mess of their lives reveals whether the faith we profess is real, or not.

But there’s also a promise here; the promise that every act of love, every cup of water given in Jesus name, will somehow contribute to and be part of the coming Kingdom of God. We pray ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done’ in our lives as well as with our lips.

Please pray this month especially for:

  • New students across the faculty as they find their feet and settle in; and for their families both here in Wales and in some cases overseas.


  • Members of staff as they adjust to all the changes over the summer.


  • For staff and patients of Aneurin Bevan Hospital, Ebbw Vale


  • For the Welsh Assembly Govt as they make decisions about the allocation of resources across Wales


  • For children and young people who arrive in hospital emergency departments suffering the effects of alcohol. In the last year 283 under-age drinkers were taken to hospitals in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and 221 to hospitals in Cardiff and the Vale.


  • Pray for the staff and clients of the Cardiff Alcohol Treatment Centre that operates in the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights. Pray too for other town centres across the region without such a centre and the health care professionals who work there.


  • For all health care professionals who are demoralised and discouraged for any reason.


  • Pray for Health Care Professionals across Europe as each country faces the challenges of greater financial austerity. Pray for those responsible for public policy, that they might be inspired by creativity and compassion.


  • As you offer yourself and your work to God, pray the Lord’s prayer: ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven.’
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HCF Prayers September 2013

Jesus wept,

            and in his weeping

                        he joined himself forever

                        to those who mourn.

            He stands now throughout all time,

                        this Jesus weeping

                                    with his arms about the weeping ones:

            ‘Blessed are those who mourn

                        for they shall be comforted.’

            He stands with the mourners

                        for his name is God-with-us.

Jesus wept.


  • Pray for those health care professionals who may be feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the problems they face day by day…


  • Pray for healthcare workers in situations of conflict or poverty, where resources are scarce or unavailable…                                                                       


  • Pray for those involved in caring for people with mental health issues, especially where those issues are long-term


  •   Pray for new staff and for students starting new courses this month, particularly for those coming from overseas.


  • Pray for all who left at the end of last term and those who return…


  • Pray for staff and patients at Nevill Hall, Abergavenny;


for healthcare workers in places where there is war or communal strife;

for Health Care in Australia and the Pacific.


Living God,

 for the love that never fails; for the comfort of your presence;

for the grace that enables us to carry on;

 for the future full of hope;

and that we can come to place our trust and confidence afresh in you

we bring you our grateful thanks and praise

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,


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Health Care Prayers, July 2013

 What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword…?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35ff)


  • Take a few moments to rest yourself in the depth and strength of God’s love, to receive the comfort and renewal he gives…


  • In times of change and uncertainty, pray for the staff of HESAS: those moving on; those remaining through the ongoing change and readjustments; those still uncertain about their personal futures…


  • Pray for students in their placements, and new students preparing to join us in September


  • Pray particularly this month for the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, for its staff both medical and managerial, and for all who look to it as patients and families of patients. Pray for those caught up by the uncertainty around the Royal Glamorgan.


  • As this month we’re asked to pray for Health Care in Africa, Susan, one of the chaplaincy team will be in Ghana, among other things visiting a church run hospital in Winneba. In a town of 60,000 there are 4 full time doctors, and this is far from the poorest part of West Africa. Pray for those who have no access to free health care, or sometimes to any professional health care at all, and the health care professionals who seek to cope with few resources. 


Pray the Lord’s Prayer, asking that indeed God’s Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth as in heaven.

Lord, we long for the day when there will be an end to death and to mourning and to crying and to pain. Until that day, use us to make your healing love known. Amen

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Health Care Prayers June 2013

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus might also be carried revealed in our body…therefore we do not lose heart.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 and 16)

In a very realistic piece of writing, out of his own experience Paul describes Christians as those who are always going through it (and there nothing changes!) but never going under (at least not for long!). In times of strain and stress in all parts of the NHS, we come to find the resources God promises for ourselves, and to pray for others.

  • In the last decade visits to A&E have risen by 50%. Pray for all involved in caring for patients who come into A&E departments, for peace in the midst of the pressure, focus in the midst of tiredness, and protection from mistakes that the stress can bring


  • There are currently 107, 000 hospital beds, a fall of 1/5th in 5 years. With changes in social care policy, approximately ¼ of those beds are occupied by people aged 85 or over. Pray for those making decisions about resources for the NHS, and that there may be joined-up thinking across the Social and Health Care sectors.


  • Pray for all who work in the caring professions, and also for their families who often share the effects of the pressure.


  • Pray for nursing students on their placements, and for those preparing to join courses beginning here in September.


  • Pray for staff at HESAS: for those leaving this summer, that they may have a sense of direction for the future; for those remaining, that they may have a clear sense of priority as they cope with potentially increased work-load; and for those who carry the responsibility of leadership in the faculty on into the future.


  • Pray for all the patients and staff at Aberdare Hospital, especially for Christian staff, that they may carry the peace and compassion of Christ as they work.


  • Pray for all involved in Health Care in South America and the Caribbean, especially any known personally to you

haiti_health          Central America



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So you thought slavery was a thing of the past?

The issue of human trafficking was dealt with at a very enlightening evening at the Meeting House on Wednesday evening. Hatty Hodgson, of the West Midlands Anti Human Trafficking Network  was the Key Speaker.
Many thousands of people in the world today are sold into slavery, not only in poor countries but in Western Europe too, including the United Kingdom.

Human Trafficking 029

Human trafficking takes a number of different forms. Often people are lured with the promise of a good job or career in another country, or another part of their own country, and end up losing their freedom and working for little or no pay. The three main kinds of work in which people are exploited in this way are prostitution, domestic service and forced manual labour. They are usually helpless to do anything about it either because they are intimidated by physical violence, they have no one who ‘looks out’ for them,  become dependent on those who control them or because they are misinformed by them and unaware of the possibility of getting any sort of help.

The police now have special units dealing with this kind of crime, and Hattie pointed out some of the ways in which we can all do something about it. For instance, we can aim to become much more informed about the sources of products we buy in the shops, and challenge retailers when we suspect that there is human trafficking somewhere in the supply chain. We can also report to the police any suspicious things we see that could point to trafficking, such as groups of demoralised and forlorn looking people being picked up in a van or a man surrounded by a group of women he seems to be contolling. Things like this could be insignificant, but there is always the possibility of our report being the vital piece of evidence that is needed to make a case and put a stop to this kind of exploitation.

Human Trafficking 002

Some very grim and cruel cases were talked about, and there was a lively discussion. The event was organised by Lizzie Santander Ochoa and Melvyn Xavier Stephen two Chaplaincy student volunteers.

Hattie Hodgson wrote her own blog about her visit to the Chaplaincy a USW you can read it here.

Thanks Glamorgan!

Submitted by Hattie on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 – 23:32


in Faith in Action

I’m on my way back from visiting the newly named University of South Wales (formerly Glamorgan University), sitting on a train and reflecting about what has gone on today. I’ve done an awful lot of this this year (see Trains, tears and trafficking). I’ve been speaking to a group of students about human trafficking, its occurrence in the UK and my work with the West Midlands Regional Anti-Trafficking Network. This is not out of the ordinary, it is a workshop I have run many times before, but this evening it feels as if something special has happened.


The student body at the University of South Wales is possibly one of the most international I have ever come across. The evaluation forms people filled in at the end of my time indicate that there were individuals in this evening’s session hailing from India, Portugal, Israel and Latin America to name just a few locations. The variety did not end there, the chaplaincy at the University of South Wales is a multi-faith facility and so there were representatives of many faith groups in attendance.  This diversity brought a huge richness to this evening’s discussion. Human trafficking occurs in nearly every country in the world. The fact that everyone approached the topic in hand from a different perspective, often literally a different location in the world, meant that the stories being shared, and the questions being asked truly reflected this global nature. I have come away buzzing with things I need to look up and questions that I need to answer.

More than this though, the passion for change among the group this evening re-reminded me that there are individuals all over the world that want to change the world for the better. Caught up in the day to day tasks of my current work, it can sometimes seem hard to see where the small steps I am trying to make are leading. Evenings like this evening help to change this, giving me hope that we can make a difference and that, one day, we might find ourselves in a world where injustice is a thing of the past.  



Faith in Action Intern

Want to find out more about the Faith in Action Project? Want to hear from speakers engaged in anti-trafficking work in the UK? Want to find out how we can help destitute asylum seekers? Want to meet students who are passionate about faith and social justice? Why not come to ‘Life to the Full…Putting Faith into Action’? Find out more on the event’s page.


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Health Care Fellowship Prayers, May 2013

Begin by reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

‘A time to be born and a time to die…’ Christians often say they’re not afraid of death, rather it’s the process of dying that they are anxious about. As Health care professionals we walk with people through illness, anxiety, fear, death and dying.

For Jesus there was a time to be born and a time to die. He lived fully knowing his death was approaching. Yet he lived his dying, trusting God, caring and giving to others to the end…


  • Pray for those who are approaching death, in hospice, hospital and home. Pray for those who care for them medically and spiritually.
  • Pray for Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr

 Prince Charles Hospital Merthyr

Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil has around 430 beds, and provides acute emergency and elective medical and surgical services, Intensive Care and Coronary Care; consultant-led obstetrics services with Special Care Baby Unit, inpatient consultant-led paediatric medicine and has a busy Accident and Emergency unit. There are seven operating theatres. Pray for all healthcare and management staff, and all who are patients today.

 As we pray for health care in North America, pray especially for those whose financial situations leave them anxious about accessing treatment they need. 


Pray for the staff and students of HESAS, especially in times of transition and change.

 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.’ John 14:27

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Health Care Prayers March 2013

You may like to begin by reading Luke 5:17-25, and reflecting again on the authority of Jesus and on the multi-faceted nature of the healing Christ brings to people.

In the light of that passage we pray:

  • for Christians working in the healthcare field, that they may be aware of their faith as an integral part of their work, and of their work as an integral part of their faith, and that they may have the strength, courage and wisdom they need to be true and good witnesses.
  • for the strengthening of spiritual influence in the work of healthcare and the thinking behind it; praying that there may be a culture of real care for people, and a recognition of the true nature and value of human life
  • acknowledging our belief as Christians that Jesus Christ is Lord of healthcare as of everything else: that the ultimate power is not with scientific knowledge, nor with personal ambition, nor with the economic restraints or the so-called political “realities”, but with Jesus Christ, in whose sight ever human soul is precious, and in whom God came into the world to bring life in all its fullness.


We pray:

  • for those directly involved in care…
  • for those who are in training…
  • for those doing scientific research…
  • for those with the responsibility of administration…
  • for those who are caring in situations of great poverty…
  • for those ministering specifically to people’s spiritual needs…


This month we pray especially for staff and patients in Ysybty Dewi Sant and Y Bwthyn, Pontypridd, and for local churches and their ministry in hospitals

We pray for the students and staff of the School of Care Sciences, and any of them who are in particular need.

‘May the Lord bless you and take care of you; May the Lord be kind and gracious to you; May the Lord look on you with favour and give you peace.’  (Numbers 6:24-26)

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